Travel safety: are swans dangerous?

Mr. Asbo is not a nice swan.

He’s attacked numerous boaters on the River Cam at Cambridge, England, hissing and pecking at anyone who comes close. Back in 2009, he even attacked the Cambridge Rowing Team during their historic May Bumps race. The race had to appoint a special marshal to keep an eye on the naughty bird.

Swans are very territorial, especially when they have a nest full of cygnets (babies). Mr. Asbo and his lady friend have several cygnets a year and their nest is right on the main boating area of the river. This has led to numerous confrontations where Mr. Asbo hisses, snaps at oars, and tries to bat people with his wings. It’s even reported that he’s strong enough to capsize small boats.

His name refers to the Anti-Social Behavior Order, a punishment usually meted out to lager-soaked louts to ban them from playing loud music, being drunk in public, aggressively panhandling, or even stealing eggs. Now local residents have had enough and there are plans to move Mr. Asbo and his family to a rural area 50 miles away, where hopefully he won’t bother anyone.

Swans are one of the many attractions of the English countryside, especially at the popular riverside destinations of Cambridge and Oxford. They are strong, fast, wild animals and should be treated with caution. The Swan Sanctuary says they’re generally not a danger, but their peck can be painful and they can even break your arm or leg if they hit you with their wing.

Attacks are rare, however. Swans only get aggressive if you get near their young, enter their territory, or deliberately antagonize them, like the idiot in this video. Don’t be the idiot in this video.

Four amazing edible Christmas displays at Walt Disney World

At holiday time, the pastry kitchens in and around Walt Disney World must kick into overdrive, churning out all the holiday desserts served in the restaurants and bakeries at the resort.

But beyond the cookies and cakes, Walt Disney World’s ovens are filled with some important construction materials – hundreds and hundreds of house and roof tiles, all made out of gingerbread.

Here’s a look at four amazing edible Christmas displays on view right now at (or very near) the Walt Disney World Resort.

1. Gingerbread Tree, Disney’s Contemporary Resort

At first glance, you wouldn’t know this tree is edible, but it is made entirely out of gingerbread shingles.

Disney’s pastry chefs use amazing restraint on this tree, which is much more about precision than decoration. The result fits perfectly into the modern decor of the Contemporary and complements the Mary Blair mosaic mural the tree sits in front of.

More than 800 pounds of flour and 1,000 pounds of honey were used in making the gingerbread for this edible Christmas tree, which stands 17 feet tall.

When you visit the tree, you can buy a variety of edible items, including hand-painted white chocolate Christmas ornaments and your own tree building block – a gingerbread shingle.


2. Chocolate Santa, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

A sweet Santa sits under a Christmas tree in this display at the Swan hotel, as if he is taking a rest after delivering all the packages at his feet.

It took the Swan and Dolphin’s pastry staff more than 300 man hours to create this display, and everything here is edible – right down to the fondant covered presents and pulled-sugar candy canes.

The nice folks at the Swan and Dolphin even calculated the calories in their creation, all 2,956,818 of them.

3. Gingerbread house, Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort

This rustic cabin is not technically inside the Walt Disney World Resort, but it is very nearby, at Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort, which borders the Disney property.

It’s the most traditional Christmas display on our list, with 10 pounds of gumdrops and 50 lollipops adorning the roofline and windows, while 1,000 pieces of shredded wheat cereal form the roof.

Judging by the conspicuously missing gumdrops on some of the windowsills, we’re guessing a few wayward children have already been seduced by this gingerbread charmer.

4. Gingerbread house, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

This is the big one – a Victorian cottage, life-size, made entirely out of gingerbread and other edible materials.

The Grand Floridian’s gingerbread house is so big, it’s used as a sweet shop, selling gingerbread tiles, cookies and chocolates to Disney visitors each day. Delicate sugar poinsettias adorn the windows, which have hand-painted winter scenes featuring Disney characters.

It takes 600 pounds of powdered sugar to sweeten up this holiday treat.